Just over 1 year ago my hubby, Jim, was diagnosed with a chronic kidney condition called IgA nephropathy. He was in stage 3. He had hypertension, high cholesterol, all of the trademark symptoms that tag along with this condition. It seemed to sneak up on us although, looking back, it had been lying dormant for years. The outlook seemed grim. He was prescribed some pills, told to lose some weight and advised there was no cure. That was it. We felt pretty powerless. He was in his early forties.
Although we are Canadian, we were living in the States at the time. Lo and behold, my sister-in-law in Canada (god bless her!) sent me a book about the plant-based diet. I was intrigued. Could there be a solution out there – one that didn’t involve prescription pills? I began to devour every bit of information I could find on IgA nephropathy and plant-based eating. I became familiar with names like Dr. McDougall, Dr. Greger, Dr. Barnard, Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. T. Colin Campbell. One of my coveted resources was Dr. Campbell’s book, The China Study. After doing my research, I told Jim I was convinced we could at least halt the progression of this disease through diet. We ended up doing more than that.
From the moment I laid my hands on those books, we raided our fridge. Out went the meat and dairy. No easy task for a guy who was all about eating high protein, low carb (probably what helped get him to the spot he was in). My journey of re-discovering how to make meals began. Animal protein is supposed to be the center of the plate right? Wrong. Milk is supposed to do a body good right? Wrong.
Why did I make this change along with with my husband? Because I was sure that if he tried to do it himself, he would not be successful. In the end, I ended up feeling so great eating this way that I started transitioning our three kids over and extolling the benefits to our family and friends.
Within 6 months, Jim was off his cholesterol statin medication. Doctors continued to reduce his hypertension medication. His eGFR (main kidney function number) increased almost 30 points bringing him back into normal range. All of this in less than a year. We more than accomplished our goal of halting the disease. We were actually reversing it! And he was feeling better than he had in years.
Where was the information about diet when we met with the family doctor, cardiologist and nephrologist? In fact, when I asked the nephrologist about a plant-based diet, he had nothing to offer. No acknowledgement of it whatsoever.
I write this article because I can only imagine we aren’t alone. Kidney disease is one of the most commonly diagnosed medical conditions and it’s on the rise. Not-to-mention, the ever increasing incidents of hypertension and high cholesterol. I’m convinced now that these are all largely a result of diet. Everything for us comes back to food.
I feel a responsibility now to share our experience and information with others who might find themselves in a similar situation to ours. I’m here to tell you that there is hope if you’re willing to make changes. We were told by our family doctor that Jim is a “miracle.” He’s not. The real miracle is the body’s ability to heal itself. Just give it what it needs. That’s all.
Full disclosure – I have no medical background and I’m not a chef. I’m a wife and mom who wanted to heal her husband and help her kids find a healthier way of eating. I’m the furthest thing from perfect. We hit roadblocks along the way, I have kids who still rebel when it comes to food, I have trouble finding meals that EVERYONE will eat. However, in the end I know that the struggles are worth it. Our kids are young enough that if they adopt this lifestyle, they may never have the need for prescription pills and may never experience the chronic illnesses that plague our society today. I also know that we are happier and healthier for it.